Black holes are known to be a mysterious and misunderstood astronomical phenomenon, but scientists are particularly baffled by the one in our very galaxy after a new study revealed new unusual behavior.
According to Science Daily, the black hole in the center of our galaxy, known as Sagittarius A, or Sgr A, normally does not absorb much outside material. However, it has begun to get "hungrier" for interstellar gas and dust, worrying scientists.
"We have never seen anything like this in the 24 years we have studied the supermassive black hole," said Andrea Ghez, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a co-senior author of the research.
"It's usually a pretty quiet, wimpy black hole on a diet. We don't know what is driving this big feast."The researchers for the study analyzed more than 13,000 observations of the black hole from nearly 150 nights over the past 15 years from pictures taken at both Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.
However, this past spring, they discovered something that gave them pause. On May 13, the area around the event horizon was twice as bright as the next brightest observation. The event horizon, also known as the Schwarzschild radius, is the closet point an object can get to the black hole before being unable to escape due to its incredible gravitational pull.
The change in brightness was reportedly astounding. In fact, UCLA research scientist Tuan Do, the study's lead author, claimed that the black hole was so bright that he initially confused it with another star.
The researchers on the study believe that the increased brightness was due to radiation from gas, dust, and other debris that had fallen into the black hole. However, they are unsure why this happened, as it is out of character for the black hole to absorb so much new material.
"The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase -- for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole 'drain' has increased for an extended period -- or whether we have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in," explained Mark Morris, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and the paper's co-senior author.
Now, the research team is busy taking new images, to find out more about the black hole that binds our galaxy.
However, there's no need to ring any alarm bells yet. Scientists were quick to point out that at 26,000 light-years away, the black hole poses no danger to our planet.
Meanwhile, The Inquistir had previously reported on another black hole mystery. Apparently, scientists are baffled after finding a new black hole so big that it "should not exist."